Big Risk, Big Reward

I’ve always wanted to be a country music singer. The trouble is, I don’t really have vocal range. I can sing about an octave, which limits my song selections but not my dream. So when I’m alone soaking in a tub or driving in my car, I belt out what I can — usually Tammy Wynette.

Friends in High Places

As it turns out, in the past several years I’ve reconnected with my dear friend Amy Grant, who knows a thing or two about music. And last weekend, I had the great pleasure of performing “How to Draw a Nekkid Man” and conducting storytelling workshops at  a Creative Discovery event she hosted at the Ritz Carlton’s Reynold’s Plantation in Georgia. Veteran songwriter Leslie Satcher joined us and conducted songwriting workshops as well. Leslie’s written huge hits, including Martina McBride’s “When God Fearing Women Get the Blues” and Willie Nelson’s “You Remain,” which Willie told her was his favorite song he’d ever recorded. Basically, I was running with the singer/songwriter big dogs. And as long as I stayed securely in my storytelling world, I felt like a big dog, too.

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Leslie writing songs on the fly, while cracking us up at the same time.

We spent the day telling workshop participants — many of whom were not artists — to get out of their comfort zone, take creative risks, and be vulnerable; to not worry about being perfect. They fearlessly plunged in, having already shown tremendous courage by just showing up. After two days with these incredible people, their bravery started to rub off.

No Time to be Timid

At the concert Saturday evening, Amy stopped her set to invite several special guests on stage to sing. I was the first one. I said, “I’ve been asking y’all to take creative risks all day; it’s time for me to take one, too.” Frankly, I was a wreck. Then, with Leslie accompanying me, and Amy’s band joining in, I sang Tammy Wynette’s “I Don’t Want to Play House.”

Now, I’m not sure it was well thought out to make my country music debut with a six-time Grammy award-winner and Willie Nelson’s best friend, but I decided either to go big or go home.

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The sequins helped.

I wasn’t terrible.

Without the support of Amy and Leslie, who rehearsed with me and literally talked me through the performance, I could have never taken that risk. I couldn’t have done it without the workshop participants either, who gave me inspiration, and bless their hearts, a standing ovation (for effort, not talent). Two days later, I woke up with a host of new storytelling ideas rolling around in my head and later that week, I faced a first-time work challenge with a newfound confidence.  Apparently, stepping out of my comfort zone and scaring myself to death has jumpstarted my creative juices and helped me confront other fears as well.

Note to self: take a big risk, get a big reward.

For now, balance has been restored and I’m back to singing in the tub and in the car. Just in case, I’m going to start working on a new song. And I’m happy to take requests — but only if it’s in the octave I can sing.

Photo credits: Matt Huesmann

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